Stars to Watch 2016

CPE spotlights commercial real estate's 40-and-under leaders for 2016.

CPE’s 2016 Stars to Watch, featured in our March 2016 digital issue, brings 10 examples of the best and brightest talent that commercial real estate has to offer. Chosen by the editors of CPE, these leaders represent the entire spectrum of business sectors, and bring remarkably varied educational, professional and geographic backgrounds to their work.

For all their diversity of interests, they also share telling qualities. These stars have earned the confidence of clients and colleagues. Having benefited greatly from mentors, they pay it forward. And despite the demands of careers and family life, they dedicate time to charitable causes. In this group of high achievers, the commitment to making a difference may well be the most admirable quality.

The following post features highlights of their professional achievements, goals and insights.

Michiko Ashida, 37, Vice President, Design, Silverstein Properties Inc.

Image by Joe Woolhead

Image by Joe Woolhead

An avid runner who finds time for an average of three marathons a year, Michiko Ashida, vice president, design at Silverstein Properties (SPI), approaches her work with the same perseverance, stamina and positive attitude that it takes to get to the finish line. “A well-designed space enhances the experience of the user, both physically and mentally,” said Ashida. “When prospective tenants tour our buildings, I can see the joy that good design brings to them and it is very rewarding to see.”

Since joining the company in 2010, Ashida has worked on multiple projects in the company’s development portfolio, which currently encompasses 18 million square feet. Currently she is responsible for advising the development team on the design and programming process for a 247-unit condo. She is also involved in acquisitions of high-profile buildings and sites, which entails preparing and evaluating materials for $10 billion worth of development activity.

Since its inception, SPI has acquired signature art pieces by renowned artists such as Jeff Koons, Kozo Nishino, Ivan Navarro and Dale Chilhuly for the lobbies and public spaces of its properties. Ashida works personally with company founder Larry Silverstein to select artists, procure the works and manage the assets. “My favorites are the two Kenneth Snelson sculptures we have down in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center. They embody balance achieved through engineering ingenuity. I marvel at them every day I walk into our lobby.”

A longtime resident of downtown Manhattan, Ashida is excited to be a part of a project that is leaving its footprint in the city. She helped ensure that the design for 4 WTC came to fruition, and the building has won many awards in the last two years. —Diana Mosher

Lisa Bevacqua, 37, Senior Vice President & Director of Asset Management, Silverstein Properties Inc.

Image by Joe Woolhead

Image by Joe Woolhead

Many career choices were available to Lisa Bevacqua when she graduated magna cum laude from Boston College in 2000 with a B.A. in psychology and philosophy. But Bevacqua’s calling wasn’t to set up a private practice as a mental health professional. Instead, she took her career in a very different direction by applying to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where she earned an MBA with majors in real estate and finance.

When Bevacqua joined Silverstein Properties Inc. (SPI) in 2010, she was tasked with helping to establish the firm’s new asset management department. By early 2013, she was promoted to director of asset management. In 2015 she was promoted to her current position.

Bevacqua currently leads a six-member team, manages a 10 million-square-foot portfolio of office and multifamily properties, and reports to institutional investors and 30-plus high net worth investors. She is tasked with monitoring the assets and maximizing the value of the company’s $7 billion real estate portfolio. In concert with her promotion, Bevacqua joined the company’s executive team, which helps guide the future of the company.

By 2019, SPI’s portfolio will grow to 20 million square feet, including such noted Manhattan properties as Four Seasons Downtown New York Hotel and Private Residences, One West End, 2 World Trade Center and 3 World Trade Center.

In an industry dominated by men, and in a company where 80 percent of the executive team is male, Bevacqua stands out as a role model. She proved her value and leadership potential early, and quickly moved up the ranks to become head of her department. —D.M.

Lucy Fletcher, 38, Managing Director, JLL International Capital Group & Capital Markets

Lucy Fletcher2After receiving a master’s degree in architectural design from the University of Edinburgh and a postgraduate diploma in estate management from South Bank University in London, Lucy Fletcher began a career that has encompassed finance, investment, asset management and development roles on three continents.

Her current tour of duty marks her second with JLL; from mid-2003 to mid-2006, she was a regional account director based in Hong Kong. She went on to hold senior asset management positions in the private equity groups of New Star Asset Management and AIG, and also served as head of asset management for the private equity real estate group at Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Asia Pacific region.

Now based in Chicago, Fletcher has been involved in more than $5 billion worth of transactions as she facilitates cross-border capital flows between North America and the Asia Pacific region.

Among other high-profile deals, she has played a central role in the sale and financing of the Aon Center in Chicago; the $1.1 billion AUD sale of the GIC/Frasers Property logistics portfolio, which was Australia’s largest industrial deal of 2015; the joint venture equity raise for Park Tower at Transbay in San Francisco; and the structuring of a joint venture between Dream Global REIT and a Chinese sovereign wealth fund for the acquisition of Rivergate in Vienna. —Mallory Bulman

Cyrus Khadivi, 34, Director, Commercial Real Estate Group, Ten-X

Cyrus Khadivi2Cyrus Khadivi is playing a significant role in the commercial real estate’s embrace of the online world. In 2009, he was an early hire at Ten-X, then a year-old startup known as, and helped launch the firm’s commercial real estate and note division. Since then, he has played a role in everything from operations development to process improvement and the management of specific groups and clients.

Khadivi’s efforts have contributed to more than $15 billion in online transactions, and he has personally participated in transactions valued at more than $5 billion, serving private investors, institutional sellers and special servicers alike. In 2015, he oversaw the record-setting sale of Manhattan Towers, an office complex in Manhattan Beach, Calif., sold by CWCapital for $96 million. The deal was the largest online transaction ever completed.

Khadivi graduated from UC Irvine with a bachelor’s degree in pre-law studies and a minor in psychology. Upon graduating, he took what he assumed would be a temporary detour from his planned law career to found Freedom Lending Group, a San Diego-based residential and commercial mortgage company. The firm eventually established a 14-state footprint as a licensed mortgage banker/broker.

When the lending market imploded during the Great Recession, Khadivi closed up shop and enrolled in an MBA program for working professionals at UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business. He then joined, where his combination of academic training and real-world know-how proved to be a perfect fit for the firm’s initial focus on distressed assets. —M.B. 

Adam Mullen, 34, Managing Director & Head of Supply Chain Services, CBRE Group Inc.

Adam Mullen2The time has never been better for Adam Mullen. With e-commerce growing rapidly as consumer behavior forces retailers to expand their shopping options and thus their distribution channels, “I feel like supply chain has arrived,” he declared.

Indeed, CBRE hired Mullen almost two years ago as it sought to expand its industrial team’s ability to integrate industrial real estate into clients’ supply-chain strategy, a response to the growing complexity of omnichannel retail delivery methods. Working in a division renamed the Global Industrial and Logistics Group to reflect the shift in focus, Mullen has so far brought in three supply-chain experts but also considers the company’s 571 industrial brokers an integral part of the conversation. “We’re serious about making sure we’re really building on that intersection (between real estate and supply chain),” he said.

Mullen, whose degree is in business but who has always had a bent for distribution space and complex problem-solving, is enthused to be drawing on experience gained at supply-chain management consulting firm Fortna to take the conversation with CBRE’s clients from the tactical to the strategic. He works with the firm’s top clients and brokers to tie real estate decision-making into supply-chain strategy, whether it be with retail, pharmaceutical, industrial supply, third-party logistics or consumer goods companies.

As he continues to build his team of strategic logistics experts, Atlanta-based Mullen emphasizes an important perspective: “Never stop focusing on your client’s business problem,” he advised. “You can derive a much better result by focusing on the business imperative.” —Suzann D. Silverman

Sukanya Paciorek, 36, Executive Vice President & Head of Asset Management, Brooklyn Navy Yard

Sukanya Paciorek2When the Brooklyn Navy Yard Corp. needed a seasoned, versatile executive to lead the largest expansion at the 300-acre industrial park since World War II, the non-profit development agency found what it was looking for in Sukanya Paciorek. Named executive vice president and head of asset management last October, Paciorek oversees facilities, leasing and development at the Navy Yard, once a renowned shipbuilding facility that now hosts 330-plus tenants. Paciorek heads facility management for 40-plus buildings as well as 2 million square feet of development that will double the industrial park’s capacity.

It is no small assignment, but Paciorek is accustomed to both leadership roles and diverse responsibilities. She had previously served since 2008 as a senior vice president for Vornado Realty Trust. There she led corporate sustainability strategy and energy efficiency efforts while managing the utilities group for the company’s New York division. She also was tasked with retrofitting several properties for improved energy efficiency.

Paciorek’s eclectic background ranges from providing commercial brokerage consulting and advisory services at Poten & Partners to serving as an advisor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. After earning a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University, Paciorek characteristically chose her current path for its potential to further broaden her experience:
“I was attracted to real estate because it sits at the intersection of most industries and has a huge impact on many of the most important issues facing our society, from the economy and business to health and the environment.” —Samantha Goldberg 

Will Parker, 38, Principal, Trammell Crow Co.

Parker Will_EDIT (2)2Will Parker truly learned real estate development from the ground up. When he was a student at Middlebury College, he would go home to Seattle for the summer and trade his textbooks for a hard hat. Parker put in long days as a union construction laborer, an introduction to real estate that he says confirmed his affinity for the business.

After earning his degree in economics and Spanish at Middlebury, where he was also a star tennis player, Parker spent five years in Boston as a quantitative analyst in Wellington Management’s equity portfolio unit. “Though it wasn’t real estate, it certainly taught me that I love investment,” he recalled. Parker left Wellington in 2005 to attend the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.

Between his first and second years at Tuck, Parker got a taste of real estate investment when he worked in Trammell Crow’s private equity division. After completing his MBA in 2007, he joined Trammell Crow full time and has been there ever since.

Colleagues cite Parker’s talent for creating value, his disciplined approach to investment and a collaborative leadership style that inspires the best work in others. All told, he has structured a total of 3 million square feet of investments. Parker has handled office, industrial and healthcare projects in locations ranging from Dallas and Denver to San Francisco, Seattle and Reno, Nev.

He will be logging plenty of time on the road this year as he shuttles between a trio of Bay Area projects: 1.3-million-square-foot Oaks Logistics Center in Livermore; MidPoint@237, a 1.0-million-square-foot business park in San Jose; and Diridon Station, which will encompass 1 million square feet of office space and a 325-unit luxury residential tower. —Paul Rosta

Chris Sands, 38, Founder & CEO, Sands Investment Group

Sands, Chris2It seems fair to say that Chris Sands is one of the very few real estate entrepreneurs who was partly inspired to pursue his chosen career on a tennis court. After starring in the sport at UCLA and spending several years on the pro tour, Sands was teaching privately in Northern California when he struck up a conversation with a student who regularly took daytime lessons. The man revealed that he invested in real estate and that the business gave him time and resources to pursue his pastime.

A decade later, the retired pro athlete leads a fast-growing net-lease advisory shop that has handled $2.2 billion worth of transactions in 40 states. Sands attributes the success to a collaborative culture, deep market knowledge and unflagging attention to client relations. Philanthropy, too, is a core value; Sands Investment Gives donates a portion of the company’s profits to charity.

Sands started his real estate career in 2004 in Marcus & Millichap’s Encino, Calif., office. There he earned a Rookie of the Year award and specialized in retail. In 2009, Sands hung out his own shingle, opening the company’s first office in Santa Monica, Calif. Even in the depths of the Great Recession, Sands sensed that his company had a bright future “if we could get it open and stay open in the most volatile year.”

The fledgling firm embraced a high-volume deal strategy to “keep the lights on,” Sands recalled. Then, as now, he preached specialization, exhorting his team to “get your PhD” in a product category.

In recent years, Sands has added offices in Austin, Texas, and in Charleston, S.C., where Sands and his family relocated in 2013. That move, he explained, “created a level of confidence in our investors, in our clients, that we had a national presence.” —P.R.

Alex Spilger, 36, Senior Vice President of Sustainability Services, Cushman & Wakefield

Alex Spilger2It may not be easy being green, but Alex Spilger makes it look that way. He has made a career of helping global technology companies, municipal agencies and foreign governments alike improve sustainability efforts. The work combines his passions for teaching and sustainability.

Spilger sowed the seeds of his career after spending a year in Costa Rica with WorldTeach and joining energy engineering company DNV KEMA. When a client requested help with LEED certification, Spilger helped build a new specialty consulting practice. In October 2008, he joined BCCI Builders as director of sustainability, working on high-end buildouts for technology firms, among them Google, Skype and Spilger continued his efforts when he joined Cassidy Turley (now Cushman & Wakefield) two and a half years ago. A memorable video pitch to GoPro featured Spilger’s skateboard and surfboard along with the product. The result: GoPro’s first comprehensive sustainability report.

Meanwhile, GreenStep, which he founded in 2008, teaches the building community how to implement sustainability and navigate certification—as he puts it, “teaching people how to fish, rather than fishing for them.” Spilger has taught workshops for the U.S. Green Building Council, American Institute of Architects and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Last summer, the U.S. Department of State asked him to provide training in Costa Rica, where he has advised the government on national policy.

Spilger sees plenty of opportunity for sustainability consulting and education at home and abroad. “I think sustainability is becoming more and more relevant as the Millennials enter the work force and start calling the shots,” he added. —S.D.S.

Brandy Bellow Spinks, 30, Vice President, Healthcare Advisory Services, Transwestern

Bellow, BrandyBrandy Bellow Spinks seemed destined for a career in real estate from the start. Family members in Houston were in the business, and as a student at Rice University, Spinks interned in the field during summer breaks. She credits Sandy Benak, her supervisor during an internship with Granite Properties, with inspiring her to go into landlord representation and demonstrating how to maintain a work-life balance.

“She was just a very good mentor and seemed to juggle it all very well,” Spinks said. “Now, as a new mother, I understand how important that balance is.”

A few months after her daughter’s birth, Spinks remains mindful of Benak’s example as she handles her professional duties. A vice president in Transwestern’s Houston Healthcare Advisory Services Group, Spinks manages a practice that encompasses business development, marketing, leasing and tenant representation. She represents some 3 million square feet of medical product in metropolitan Houston, and her work with a variety of hospital systems and physician groups has provided her with diverse experience in the healthcare sector.

Since 2010, Spinks has executed 208 transactions representing more than $91 million in value, and in 2014 and 2015, she completed deals with the majority of Houston’s largest hospital systems, notably Memorial Hermann and Houston Methodist. Major public companies she has worked with include HCP Inc. and RMR Group.

What Spinks loves most about her job is creating value for her clients. “I try to consistently excel in delivering value to my clients and providing the highest level of service possible. When my client is happy, I’m happy.” —S.G.